Transport For London (TFL) London Underground Tube Strike

Transport for London edges the PR battle on #TubeStrike day

August 6, 2015 | 3 min read

Cricket fans will be thanking the RMT for giving them an excuse to stay at home and watch Australia implode but for those Londoners that did venture into the office this morning disenchantment with strikers was the order of the day.

Industrial disputes tend to be Manichean affairs with the PR battle won by the most skillful caricaturist.

When the unions walked out last month, they achieved a surprising level of sympathy on social media with Boris the panto villain of choice.

This time, our ire was directed at the tube drivers, with some really funny offerings including the tube f*ckometer that tracked colourful language across the network.

The media also went hard at the strikers, with yesterday’s ‘open letter’ from TfL in the Metro providing a seamless assist to a front page this morning on commuter ‘outrage’. I also enjoyed a more thoughtful take from the Economist’s new Bagehot columnist @jeremycliffe who views the strike as a sign of London’s success as a global city.

In retrospective, the unions might reconsider calling a strike during silly season when we’re all in a mood for lampooning them, but their main PR problem is that their message is way too nuanced. Some claims, including that workers could ‘miss weddings’ (despite 43 annual leave days) can offend people’s sense of fairness.

Ultimately, they are in danger of putting such a high price on a 24-hour tube that commuters wonder whether they would prefer it not to happen at all. That’s dangerous, because Londoners do want it – even those that most strongly support the trade unions.

Mark Lowe is partner at Third City. Follow him on Twitter @markrlowe

Transport For London (TFL) London Underground Tube Strike

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